Something We’ve Never Seen Before

Paco will be 27 in about a month, and I think that his age is finally beginning to catch up with him. His arthritis is more of a problem lately, but other things have been going on.

First, about a month ago, he had some swelling in his right rear fetlock. It was during our severe cold (yes, we do sometimes have that in the desert), and I took to putting a neoprene wrap on it at night to keep it warm. With the weather being what it was, I didn’t do ice therapy, like I had last summer when the same thing happened.

The neoprene wrap seemed to help and the swelling went down.

I was not in the habit of blanketing him at night because I’m pretty sure he’s never been blanketed before and he usually develops a pretty heavy winter coat. I did try it one night with a borrowed blanket, but his neighbor, Chant, didn’t particularly care for it and pulled it off of him. It ended up down around his fetlocks, so we put it away.

I may need to rethink that, though, for the coming winter, given his age. Maybe a better blanket with better straps will stay on when Chant pulls on it. We’ll have to see.

Next, I noticed that he was constantly shifting his weight back on forth on his hind feet. It was much more frequent than ever before, so I wondered if his arthritis was bothering him. I had long ago “retired” him from taking long rides over rocky trails or up and down steep hills just because of his age. Even though he had not exhibited any serious problems at the time, I didn’t want to take any chances with him.

One thing about my boy is that even if he’s hurting, he rarely lets on. So in turn-out, he would still run and kick and buck like a youngster–not very long, but it was comforting to see that. He also continued to play the role of the Alpha Horse when it was feeding time. I suspect that in his days as a ranch horse, he was turned out in a field with the rest, and they all had to jockey for position to eat when the hay was dumped for them. So, now, when he hears the tractor coming into the barn with the hay, he lets his neighbors know that he’s supposed to be first. (Never mind that there are sixteen stalls between his and the hay barn and he has to wait his turn.)

In his assumed role as the Alpha Horse, he charges his neighbors and often kicks. They, in turn, do pretty much the same, although Chant is more likely to grab mouthfuls of Paco’s butt when he’s trying to kick through the fence. I’m always finding red paint on his hooves as evidence of his kicking through the fence–and more often than not, his fetlock swelling could be an outcome of the kicking.

A couple of weeks ago, though, he ended up with an injury along his coronary band. He had apparently kicked through the fence and clipped the rail, ripping a skin tag about an inch wide just above the coronary band in the front of his hind foot. No one saw it, so whether he cast himself when he did it, we don’t know. Interestingly, he shows no sign of lameness and still shows me new red paint on his rear hooves–even the bandaged one–and he still plays hard out in the turn-out. But something more than a small, superficial injury seems to have happened.

After I cleaned the injury and bandaged it, I tried to pick up his foot to wrap some duct tape across the bottom to help hold the bandage in place. His foot suddenly rolled forward–and I do mean rolled. He ended up almost standing on the front of his fetlock, and his whole leg was trembling. It took all of my body weight to push his hindquarters backward to bring his hoof flat on the ground. At first I thought he was just being obstinate about me picking up his hoof, but when it happened several more times, I began to think it was involuntary. A muscle or tendon spasm, maybe? Something going on in the pelvic area?

Over the next few days, it happened several times. Vickie, who owns the stable where he boards, said she had never seen anything like that. Others, also, said the same thing. An online search yields nothing that vaguely resembles that, although I continue to look for it. I really wanted to get a picture or a video of it, but I was reluctant to try to initiate it.

Because this situation was more than a little scary, I thought it best that I have the vet come and assess his hindquarters. He confirmed the arthritis and assessed his left rear leg at 3/3 (with zero best) and his right rear leg at 2/3. Doc gave him a Legend shot, which should help, and we’ll start doing that about every three months. And he suggested a low dose of bute before riding. Oh, and by the way, he did not once display this rolling of his foot when the vet was there–of course.

Then, yesterday, when I took the old bandage off, I was pleased that it had stayed in place well and there was no dirt sifted in. I left it uncovered for a while, hoping the air would do it good. So we were standing there looking at him and he did something altogether different. He cocked his foot up to the toe, but seemed to have trouble pushing his heel down. It looked like he was trying hard to push it down flat, but it wasn’t cooperating. Once it did go flat, it seemed to take a moment for his hock to “pop” back into position.

I did get a video of this behavior–although the subsequent behaviors didn’t seem as bad as that first one. You will see and hear Vickie commenting on what she thinks is going on. (I wish I could remember to turn my phone sideways when I video something!)

I have Rene Noriega scheduled to come out and do some of his bodywork with Paco and see if he can figure out what’s going on. The vet really only looked at Paco structurally; I need Rene to do more of a holistic evaluation, considering his muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

I’ll post again if I learn anything from Rene. I just hope it’s nothing serious.

About Sharon

**Writing, both personal and professional, has always been an important aspect of my life. **Personally, whether I write from experience or invent fictional characters, I learn so much about myself. Writing has always helped me understand and deal with important events and issues in my life. The blog, "Boxelders and Blackberries" serves this purpose. **My "gravatar" is a boxelder tree, which I hope provides a way to bring together my personal and professional writing. The boxelder tree branches into multiple trunks, each representing a different direction my life and career has taken.
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